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In my quest to read more Middle Grade books, I am trying to read many of the books that folks think may win the 2012 Newberry. I am working my way along this ongoing  list.

Today, I would like to share my thoughts on Sparrow Road by Sheila O'Connor.

This book was not for me.

First, the History major in me was going crazy trying to place this novel in time. Here is my mathematical formula for narrowing this down:

First, no mention of cellphones or internet= time <1995
Mama's "hippie" stint in Amsterdam= time >1969
Several mentions of "paisley" and peasant blouses= 1970's
Raine is 12, going on 13 + Mom (hippie)= late 70's to early 80's
Final result= 1978-1989
Still, it is a range.
Next, my major, major problem with this story is that it features a bunch of non-functioning adults who rely too much on a 12 year-old. A 12 year-old that they do not tell the truth to, and then expect her to make mature decisions. HUH? Several times, I wanted to reach into this book and punch the mother. Was she not the most immature woman EVER? She sneaks her kid away from her loving grandfather, without telling her why, tells Raine her father wants to meet her, and then dumps the whole thing in the kid's lap. No one, with the exception of Diego, ever asks Raine how she feels or if she is okay. It is all about their own agendas!
Josie, another grown woman, involves Raine in a project to reunite the orphans of Sparrow Road, Viktor gives Raine a job watching a woman who is loosing her mental capacities, and everyone assumes that if Raine is busying working on "art" she will grow as a person. How about treating her like one?
Even the ending (not really a spoiler), Mama asks Raine if they should stay at Sparrow Road, or return to the city. In this way, Mama would not have to be a "waitress" anymore. What?!?! How about what is best for your kid, lady?
I cannot think of one kid I know from the library, or my own daughters who could appreciate this story. Is it a thinly veiled criticism of the foster care system, a reflection on single parenting? Who knows.
What I did love was Raine. Why did I love her? Because I am an adult. She speaks and thinks like an adult. She has more empathy for the ghosts of  orphans in the attic, than the adults around her have for her. So, as a child reader, could they relate to Raine? Would this story have made more sense if Raine had been 15 or 16, I think it would have.
Well, it least it gave me something to think about.
Newberry worthy? I don't think so.


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